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Figure Four: Dak Nears History; Brown In The Slot; Zeke’s Career-Best; More
(Editor’s Note: DallasCowboys.com senior writer and noted pro wrestling aficionado Rob Phillips' column, “Figure Four,” identifies four key statistics each week that impact the Cowboys’ on-field performance.)
FRISCO, Texas – The most important numbers to the Cowboys this season are well established: 4, 88, 50, 82, 21, 77, among others.
Allow me to offer a few more.
Fresh off the Cowboys’ first win of the season, let’s examine some key statistics that present a clearer view of where this team stands, and where it might be headed, here in the first month:
2: Pass Attempts Until Dak Prescott Makes History
Dak Prescott’s efficiency in his infancy as an NFL quarterback has been remarkable. In his first 498 pass attempts he has thrown 4 interceptions. According to the NFL, he’s on the verge of becoming the first quarterback in league history to throw 5 or fewer picks in his first 500 pass attempts.
“I think he is a good decision maker,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “He values the football. He understands the importance of it.”
Last season Prescott threw interceptions against the Packers (one), the Eagles (one) and the Giants (two). The result: The Packers scored a field goal, the Eagles a field goal, the Giants a touchdown. The Cowboys’ only loss in those three games was to the Giants, 10-6, so clearly the turnover made a difference there.
That December trip to the Meadowlands was one of eight Cowboys games decided by a touchdown or less. They went 6-2 in those games. When at least half your games are likely to be decided in the fourth quarter, it helps immensely to have a quarterback who doesn’t beat himself.
35: Anthony Brown’s Snaps In The Slot vs. The Giants
The Cowboys could be without veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick in the short term following hand surgery Monday. When Scandrick exited in the second quarter of Sunday’s opener, Brown moved into Scandrick’s slot role and helped limit the Giants’ passing game in a 19-3 victory – a sign of the second-year cornerback’s versatility for this defense.
His fourth-quarter interception of Eli Manning just inside Cowboys territory basically sealed the game. On that play, working in the left slot, Brown stayed inside in zone coverage (rather than trailing Sterling Shepard wide into the flat) and stepped in front of Manning’s pass to Roger Lewis Jr. The Cowboys scored a field goal off the turnover to take a commanding three-score lead with two minutes remaining.
Brown, a sixth-round pick a year ago, impressed the coaching staff in last year’s training camp when he showed a knack for playing the slot despite virtually no college experience inside. “He’s just a really good athlete,” Garrett said. “I think he has a good feel for playing the game, and he can run.”
Scandrick’s recovery timetable is currently uncertain, and with rookie Jourdan Lewis still working his way back from a hamstring injury, Brown’s position flex is a major plus.
5: Ezekiel Elliott’s Career-High Catch Total In Week 1
Undoubtedly, when Zeke runs the ball well the Cowboys control the pace of games, and they’re 7-2 when he gets at least 100 yards. But his pass-catching skills are underrated, and the second-year back reminded us in Week 1 it’s an element defenses have to prepare for week to week.
Elliott’s 30-yard run on a swing pass from Prescott moved the offense deep into Giants territory before a holding call stalled the drive. Remember his 83-yard touchdown catch and run in Pittsburgh last year? That’s what separates Elliott as one of the league’s most complete running backs.
He had 32 catches as a rookie. Five catches a game for 16 games, if his preliminary court injunction lasts the entire season as many have speculated, would mean 80 catches. Hard to see that much work in the passing game, but he’s certainly another option for offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
3: Number Of Times Dallas Has Allowed Three Points Or Less Since 2009
The opponents: Giants, 2017 opener (19-3); Eagles, Oct. 2013 (17-3); Redskins, Dec. 2009 (17-0).
Who says familiarity with division foes is overrated?
Conversely, the Cowboys have scored a total of 44 points in three games against the Giants dating back to last season. Styles make fights, and New York has the defensive talent to challenge Dallas’ powerful offensive personnel. Most impressive last Sunday was the Cowboys’ own defense: 10 Giants drives, one field goal, 233 yards. Only Cleveland (222) gained fewer yards against them last season. Read